Birk Says He's Ready

Vikings center Matt Birk said Thursday he expects to be ready for the regular season opener after a lost year due to injuries.

It was a nightmare scenario for Mike Tice last year when both Matt Birk and Michael Bennett were injured during the team's final preseason game on back-to-back plays. Bennett returned by midseason. Birk wasn't so lucky. Three surgeries later, he's confident he'll return to form.

On Thursday, Birk said he expects to be ready for the season opener vs. the Bucs. He's still recovering from hip surgery and, along with teammates Kevin Williams, Jim Kleinsasser and Mike Rosenthal, all will be monitored during training camp to chart their progress.

Barring any setbacks, the latter three are expected to take full part in training camp. Birk will be nudged along in hopes of being cleared for perhaps the final preseason game if not the opener.

* The battle for the left guard spot is up in the air. Mike Tice knows that Adam Goldberg will be one of the combatants for the job, but the other finalist has yet to be determined -- either Nat Dorsey or rookie Marcus Johnson.
* The team extended its first contract offer to Troy Williamson. To date, no first-rounders have signed.

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